Coming to the inauguration ceremony was an absolute must in my mind. I had spent countless hours campaigning and used the past year to educate my daughter on politics, taking her to rallies and speeches and involving her in door-to-door campaigning. It was a way for us to bond in a way fathers and daughters don’t always get a chance to do. And she was full of questions. Why don’t some people like the president? Why are people yelling at each other? Why are we democrats? I tried to earnestly answer her questions in a way that a seven year old would understand. To my delight and surprise, she was soaking it all in.
So you could imagine her excitement when the man who’s face graced the fliers we spent our weekends distributing inched closer. It was like the first year I had played Santa and she was three. Mouth wide open in disbelief, I had hoped she didn’t recognize me behind the white beard and spectacles and to my relief, she hadn’t. I didn’t have to worry about her being disappointed now because this larger than life character was authentic...the President was approaching us right now.
When they say true stars have a presence they are not kidding. It’s like those opening scenes in movies when they show a crowded street scene and somehow you can still pick out the main character because they have the “it factor”. This president embodies the definition of the “it factor”.
He caught Lily’s eye. He took my hand and said “thank you for bringing your daughter, it’s important for kids to be here”. And then he leaned down to shake Lily’s hand. She was speechless but her smile was priceless. His visit was brief but exciting. He straightened back up to continue on with the procession and as he turned, an envelope fell out of his jacket.
I tried to get his attention but he had been hustled far ahead of me and the crowds were loud and impermeable. I examined the envelope closely. “Classified-Top Secret”.
Classified? My mind began to race. Lily noticed the sweat on my brow and tugged on my arm. “What is it daddy?”
All the scenarios played through my mind. “Daddy, what is it!”
I bent down and looked Lily in the eye and told her the truth. The president dropped an envelope and it is marked “classified, top secret.” Seeing the confused look on her face I googled the term classified and read the definition out loud.
“The highest level of classification of material on a national level. Such material would cause "exceptionally grave damage" to national security if made publicly available.”
“Daddy what is grave damage?”
“Honey, if this envelope gets in the wrong hands, something bad could happen.”
“Like people could die?”
I looked at the worried look on her face and shrugged off my anxiety. “No, honey, nothing that serious. Just the president could get in trouble.”
My mind began to race. I’ll admit it went in all directions. I was a mystery novel reader after all, I like a good mystery. But the tape that sealed the envelope, and my daughter staring at me with great intensity, made me hesitate.
Then I thought is this a set up? Is someone watching us? Is Jon Quinones going to come out of the crowds and approach me with a camera crew for an episode of What Would You Do?
And lastly, I admit the worst thought that crossed my mind was ...money. How could this change our lives? What if I sold the story? Hell, this would give FOX News a year’s worth of material.
But Lily’s eyes looked up at me and I thought about all the long talks we had on freedom, rights, the constitution, the declaration of Independence...life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
The president and his entourage were no longer visible to the eye. So I turned to the plasma that had been set up. I looked at the man that I had campaigned for. I admired him. And his story. He was in my mind, as honest as any politician could be. He had endured more than a year’s worth of defamation and assault. And so I resolved I had one more political duty to fulfill.
I contemplated trying to get a security official but then what? What if they were shady? It’s not like going to the White House and asking for the President was an option...it could again get into the wrong hands.
And based on that fear I made my decision. I tucked the envelope in my jacket and lifted Lily into my arms and tried to get closer to the podium. We were here to see the president get sworn in and that’s what we were going to do. Lily’s seven year old self had already forgotten about the envelope as she waved her home made poster high up in the sky.
Later that night, in my home office, I sat with the envelope. I thought through the details. If the president had an envelope with classified information in his pocket, chances are the same information is in the hands of other important officials. It would be more dangerous to put it in the wrong hands than just make it disappear. Considering I didn’t have a trusted contact to the president I knew what I had to do.
I contemplated once more opening the envelope. But there is just some information my brain doesn’t need. Like when my wife mentions going to a psychic. I always say I don’t need to know the future. Needless information information taking up space in the brain. Same rule applies here.
Nita is a Philadelphia based writer and blogger, business professional and avid health advocate. While Nita's public writings are mostly essays and blogs consisting of personal ramblings, her true focus and body of work lie in screenplays, plays and several started (and yet unfinished) novels. Nita writes purely for love of words and while being published would be nice, it's the sheer love for storytelling that keeps her interested in maintaining the title of writer. Her personal blog can be found at www.writingnita.com.